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Kennel Cough in Dogs: What it is and How it's Treated

Updated: Mar 29

What is Kennel Cough?

Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC), commonly known as "Kennel Cough", is a highly contagious respiratory illness that affects all breeds and ages of dogs. Multiple bacterial and viral pathogens cause it and it is mainly found in places where large numbers of dogs congregate, such as:

  • Boarding kennels

  • Daycare facilities

  • Dog parks

  • Dog training groups

  • Dog shows

What are the symptoms of Kennel Cough?

The main symptom of kennel cough is a robust and honking cough that comes on suddenly. Other symptoms of kennel cough include:

  • Runny nose

  • Watery eyes

  • Sneezing

  • Lethargy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fever

  • Swollen lymph nodes

How is it diagnosed?

If your pet has any of the clinical signs listed above schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. A thorough history should be provided to see if your pet has had recent exposure, as most dogs with kennel cough produce a hacking cough or tracheal palpation during exercise. Ideally, testing should be performed to identify the infecting organism, and your veterinarian will take precautions to minimize transmission of the infection to other dogs when you take your dog in for an appointment.

How is it treated?

Uncomplicated cases of kennel cough usually resolve with little to no treatment, with cough-suppressing medicine being given to alleviate the symptoms during recovery to improve patient comfort. Sometimes kennel cough can develop into pneumonia, which can be very serious, so antibiotics are given to prevent this progression. Pets with kennel cough should be kept away from park and daycare facilities to minimize the spread of the disease, and you should also walk your dog with a harness leash to minimize tracheal stimulation.

Can Kennel Cough be prevented?

Vaccines for some pathogens contributing to kennel cough include Bordetella, adenovirus, and parainfluenza, with most boarding and grooming facilities requiring these vaccinations, and vaccination should also be considered for dogs that socialize with other dogs in places like dog parks. Unfortunately, the immunity gained from vaccination or natural infection does not last long and some dogs may need boosters every 6 months.


Speak with your veterinarian if you plan to introduce your dog to an environment with a large group of new dogs, and discuss if the vaccine for kennel cough makes sense for your dog. Call us at 559-434-5470 to book an appointment today if you believe your dog has kennel cough, giving us a heads-up so we can take the proper precautions when caring for your pet, and mitigate the spread of the illness.



  1. American Kennel Club. Kennel Cough In Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

  2. American Veterinary Medical Association. Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex

  3. American Humane. Kennel Cough

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